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Dog Sledding in Australia? Don’t you need Snow?
Dog sledding is the sport where dogs and their drivers (known as Mushers) compete together against other teams. The sport of dog sledding has a 20 + year history in Australia with many sledding and breed clubs offering training days and races. Dogs wear racing harnesses and are hooked by a special line with a bungy section to a scooter or three wheeled gig in dirt races or a snow sled in snow races (there are currently only two snow races in Australia). Dog teams may consist of classes from one dog teams to eight dog teams and classes are also run for novices, veterans (the dogs not the people), mini pee wee’s, pee wee’s, juniors and touring classes. Races can be from a few hundred metres for the pee wee’s up to 20+ km. Some clubs offer excursion distances of up to 75km but most races in Australia are termed sprint races made up of heats of around 5-10 km over 1-2 days. Dog sledding is a fantastic sport for anyone who likes to be active with their dogs and it caters for all ages.
Who can compete in Dog Sledding Competitions?
Any active, healthy person can compete in dog sledding competitions.
What sort of dogs can dog sled?
Any sound, healthy, active adult dog of suitable size can compete in dog sledding. This is a sport where the dog and the musher work together. The Musher actively assists the dogs by scooting. Obviously the more dogs in a team the less work the Musher needs to do but even Mushers of the largest teams will sometimes aid the team by running up hills and pushing their sleds. Breeds commonly seen in races are Alaskan Huskies, Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, German Short Haired Pointers, Samoyeds, English Springers, Border Collies, Australian Cattle Dogs, Labradors, Greyhounds, whippets and even a Dingo. There have been many other breeds compete in Australia and Overseas.
What sort of equipment do I need?
To start off in this sport you need a suitable dog, collar, lead, harness, bungy line, scooter and safety helmet. A pair of sidecutters also needs to be carried on your scooter during a race and some form of battery operated lighting is required for night races. To run a team of three dogs or more you will need a gig which must be fitted with a dog bag, a locking brake and a snub line. To run in the snow you will obviously need a snow sled which also needs to be fitted with a snow hook, a snub line and a dog bag. Other items that may be useful at races are stake out lines to insure your dog is secure at all times, portable water bowls, walking belts and camping equipment.
Where can I go to learn more about dog sledding or compete in dog sledding races?
There are several race clubs and breed clubs (Siberian Husky Club and Alaskan Malamute Clubs) that hold race training workshops and race events throughout Australia. The Northern Victorian Sled Dog Club will hold several training days and events throughout the year. Check NVDSC’s Calendar of events for specific event details
How do I train my dog?
Sled dogs are trained to voice commands. Mushers can use common commands such as “Go” “left” “right” “on by” and “stop” or traditional terms such as Haw (left), Gee (Right) and Hike (Go). You can even make up your own commands. All that really matters is that your dogs understand clearly what you want them to do. You can easily start training these commands to your dog when you take them for a walk then when you are ready to add a harness and a scooter your dog will already know basic turning and stopping commands. It is really important to train your dog to pass other dogs cleanly and ignore wildlife. This will keep you safely on the track and out of trouble.
If you have any other questions feel free to contact the Northern Victorian Sled Dog Club. One of our members will be more than happy to help you.